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Princeton bans cannabis businesses – for now

Princeton has joined the ranks of municipalities that have opted out of permitting cannabis businesses to open their doors – at least for now.

The Princeton Council approved an ordinance banning the six categories of cannabis businesses at its Aug. 9 meeting. Officials said they needed more time to study the issue and to determine where those uses – particularly the retail sale of cannabis – should be allowed.

The ordinance is an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance, which determines how land may be used and developed. Princeton faced a state-imposed deadline of Aug. 21 to decide whether to allow cannabis businesses to open in town, and where they could be located. Cannabis was recently legalized.

Princeton Council President Leticia Fraga and Council members Michelle Pirone Lambros, Mia Sacks and Dwaine Williamson voted to approve the ordinance. Council members David Cohen and Eve Niedergang were absent.

The six classes of cannabis businesses affected include the cultivation, manufacturing, packaging, wholesale, transportation, delivery and retail sale of cannabis. All are banned under the ordinance, which has been described as a temporary opt-out measure while the council considers its next steps.

The Princeton Council has formed a cannabis task force that has been meeting to examine the impact of legalization of cannabis for adults. Fraga, Pirone Lambros and Niedergang are the Princeton Council representatives on the task force, which is chaired by Niedergang.

Fraga said the task force, which has held several meetings, has been working deliberately on the issue. It is in the process of drafting recommendations for what opting in should look like, she said, emphasizing that the ordinance is a temporary measure.

Pirone Lambros agreed, and said the task force has undertaken a very thoughtful approach to cannabis. The task force “wants to make sure that we keep the vision and mission of looking for social justice and equity issues when we are making this decision,” she said.

The ordinance states that the town is “committed to social and restorative justice in terms of cannabis policing and enforcement. Because the burden of the criminalization of cannabis has fallen heavily on communities of color and the poor, social and racial justice considerations must be highly valued in all decision making.”

Sacks said she was confident that whatever recommendations that the task force makes would be based on a well-informed and well-reasoned approach.

“I always favor an approach in which you take more time to get it right, rather than rushing and getting it wrong,” Sacks said.

Williamson said that opting out “keeps it open.” It is possible that Princeton will opt in at a later date – which is what Niedergang suggested when the ordinance was introduced at the Princeton Council’s July 12 meeting.

Towns that fail to act by the state-imposed Aug. 21 deadline must allow any of the six cannabis businesses to open their doors in the community.

Those towns will have to wait five years before taking another crack at deciding which businesses to allow. Businesses that have already opened their doors during the preceding five-year period would be exempt.


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